Effective Meetings

Staff and volunteers involved in agriculture and rural organizations spend a great deal of time planning for and participating in board meetings. Time is a valuable resource and it must be used in an efficient manner. Here are some resources to enhance the effectiveness of your next board meeting.

Preparing an agenda

Running the meeting 

Tips for Virtual Meetings

Documenting the meeting with accurate minutes

Annual general meetings

Preparing an agenda

Normally, the chairperson and the secretary prepare a new agenda for each meeting and circulate it to all board members before the meeting. The agenda sets out the items for discussion, tasks to cover and time allotted for the meeting.
A typical agenda contains:
      • call to order
      • adoption of the agenda
      • reading and adoption of the minutes of the previous regular meeting
      • treasurer's report
      • business arising from the minutes
      • reading of correspondence and discussion
      • committee reports and discussion
      • new business
      • adjournment
This relatively simple document can set the tone for a meeting if used in a creative way.
At your next meeting use your agenda to:
      • Remind board members of important information such as the mission statement, upcoming event dates or deadlines.
      • Allow time for a chairperson to comment on the organization's status or the focus of the meeting.
      • Uncover hidden talents within your board by making time for each board member to speak about the organization's work.
      • Keep board members and staff accountable and engaged by reviewing tasks assigned to them in previous meeting minutes.
Here are two agenda templates  agenda template (DOC 18 KB) and consent agenda policy template (DOC 29.3 KB) that you can modify and use for your next meeting. Information on preparing agendas can be found on pages 4 to 5 of the  Running Effective Meetings Guidebook (PDF 802 KB)
LeadershipTalk Webinar Agendas
LeadershipTalk Webinar Using a Consent Agenda

Running the meeting

Parliamentary Procedures are a commonly adopted set of rules and order of business to follow when carrying out a meeting. These procedures will:
      • give all members an opportunity to speak and have their opinions recognized by the group
      • allow business to be conducted with ease and in a timely manner
      • assist in accurate record keeping
The Running Effective Meetings Guidebook (PDF 802 KB) describes how to make motions and how to vote on them.  Using parliamentary procedure will make meetings effective.  How to Make and Handle Motions (PDF 163KB) explains how to make a motion, lists common motions and defines common meeting terms. When the agreed to procedures are not followed an individual or their action may be Out of Order (PDF 127KB)
When voting methodology is not prescribed in the bylaws, the method of voting on any one motion or candidate is usually determined by the presiding officer or chairperson. Before the vote is taken the assembly may determine the method of voting by majority vote.
Common voting methods:
      • General or unanimous consent – used for routine or noncontroversial matters with an aim to save time. Unanimous agreement to use this method must be in place. The chairperson is required to ask, "Is there any objection?" If there is objection, a formal vote takes place.
      • Voice vote – measured by the volume of voices. The presiding officer calls for the affirmative vote first. A negative must be called following the response on the affirmative.
      • Rising vote – a show of hands or a standing vote where members stand to have their vote counted.
      • Roll call – each individual eligible to vote is called and asked to state their vote.
      • Ballot (secret ballot) – vote is done privately using ballots. After the vote is taken, the chairperson will request a motion to destroy the ballots. This motion requires a member to second it and a vote.
      • Counted vote – the number of members in favour, opposed and abstained is recorded in the minutes.

Committee work is a vital part of an organization and keeping the board up to date with committee activities is important for decision making purposes.
Committees should:
      • include members with abilities and interests that fit the task
      • include new and experienced members
      • have an appointed chairperson
      • notify the board chairperson of all meetings
      • know if they can take action or if they must report to the board executive first
      • submit written reports to the secretary at a board meeting
      • circulate reports to the board members prior to the meeting
The treasurer is responsible for providing a financial report to the board monthly or a week before each regularly held meeting. This ensures board members know the financial status of the organization so they are able to make informed decisions.
Here is a financial report template (DOC 15 KB) for meetings.
LeadershipTalk Webinar Financial Statements

Tips for Virtual Meetings

The first step to running a virtual meeting is to ensure that all participants have access to the organization's chosen platform.  There are many to choose from and it may involve downloading an app.

  • Test the technology - Before the meeting begins ask all participants to test the technology to make sure it works and familiarize themselves with how to use it. Ask participants to log in 5 to 10 minutes ahead of time to set up video and audio.
  • Use video - This helps to personalize the conversation and to keep everyone engaged.  To see people's facial expressions and body language ask individuals to sit within one metre of the webcam. Try not to have a distracting background and be aware of window glare.
  • Provide an audio dial in option - In the event that the internet connections are not strong enough to accommodate video, people can still participate in the meeting by calling in.
  • Chairperson begins by laying the ground rules - Explain how the meeting will work and whether it will be recorded. Walk participants through the icons (mute button, raise hand, document share, etc.). Tell participants how you would like people to speak (take turns, raise hand, use of chat box, etc.).
  • Use an agenda and meeting management practices - Set clear objectives for the meeting and send out any documents required before the meeting so everyone has time to read them before the meeting.  Add links to relevant documents into the agenda.  Declare if there is quorum. Some useful resources are: Effective Meetings, Agenda Template (DOC 18 KB), Consent Agenda Policy Template (DOC 29.3 KB) and LeadershipTalk Webinar - Agendas.
  • Delegate someone other than the chairperson to take meeting minutes - Use the Meeting Minutes Checklist (PDF 155 KB) and the Meeting Minutes Template (DOC 44 KB).  Set up motions you know before-hand so you can fill in the blanks.  Here is a Motion Form Template (DOC 23 KB) to fill in and email to the secretary.  Circulate the minutes to participants directly after the meeting. Check out the factsheet Meeting Minutes: Build Your Organization`s Effectiveness (PFD 578 KB) and the LeadershipTalk Webinar - Meeting Minutes.
  • Designate a support to the chair - this person monitors the chat box for questions, keeps track of who has not had a chance to speak etc.
  • Mute your microphone - Remember to mute your microphone to avoid background noise.  Remember to turn it back on before you speak.
  • Raise your hand to speak - To avoid talking over one another raise your hand. You can also use the chat feature to raise your hand to speak.
  • Use share screen options - Meetings should be discussions.  Use screen sharing to guide the conversation so everyone is on the same page or to make changes to documents.
  • Use facilitation techniques when applicable.
    • Use group check in's - How is everyone doing?
    • Pause and regularly ask for participants to give input.
    • Call on individuals to speak.
    • Use a round table discussion.
    • Use polling features that are available in many platforms.
    • Take into account comunication skills and different communication styles.
    • Practice good listening skills.
    • Before moving on from a topic ask if anyone has further comments.
  • Wrap up the meeting with clearly defined next steps and actions - Determine who is responsible for each task and give a deadline.

LeadershipTalk Webinar Alternative Voting



Documenting the meeting with accurate minutes

Minutes should be:
      • accurate
      • specific
      • objective
      • consistent in detail and format
      • reflective of the level of deliberation at a meeting
      • securely filed with the organization

Minutes should not:
      • record all details verbatim
      • identify particular board members stating a particular point
      • record sidebar conversations
      • be kept by members in draft form once the minutes are approved

The Meeting Minutes Checklist (PDF 155KB) provides a list of items that should be included in the minutes of a board meeting. Pages 6 to 8 in Running Effective Meetings Guidebook (PDF 802KB) provides sample meeting minutes.

It is important to keep an accurate record of meetings so actions and policies approved at meetings can be referred to later. Meeting minutes also serve as the legal record of the decisions made by an organization and are therefore admissible in court. Proper documentation of meeting discussions can be the first step in mitigating risk to the organization.  The Meeting Minutes Template (DOC 44 KB) can be modified for use for your next meeting.  The Motion Form (DOC 23 KB) and Report Form (DOC 22 KB) can be helpful in the recording and organizating of minutes. 

Meeting Minutes: Build Your Organization's Effectiveness (PDF 578 KB) outlines the importance of good record keeping.

LeadershipTalk Webinar Meeting Minutes

Top of Page

The annual general meeting (AGM) is held after the organization’s fiscal year end, as outlined in the bylaws. The purpose of an AGM is to:
      • present executive and committee reports, as well as financial statements, to the membership
      • allow the opportunity for comments and questions from the members
      • elect a board of directors
      • make any changes to the bylaws
      • appoint an auditor
      • pass any resolutions that the membership wishes the board to act upon
      • acknowledge the contributions of staff, volunteers and funders
An organization's foundational documents such as bylaws or legislation may indicate specific requirements for when the AGM is to be held and what procedures are to be followed. For more information on bylaws, visit starting an organization.
Preparing information for the AGM is the responsibility of the board members and chair and not the executive director. However, it is appropriate to ask the executive director for information and reports.
Things to remember when planning your meeting:
      • ensure your AGM is planned in accordance with your bylaws
      • bring a current membership list to help record numbers for quorum
      • request reports from committee chairs well in advance of the meeting date
      • prepare a call for nominations for the board and/or receive the report of the nominating committee
      • prepare voting materials and confirm voting methodology with nominating committee
      • allow sufficient time on the agenda for board members and shareholders to voice thoughts/concerns
      • consider inviting a guest to speak on a topic of interest to the organization’s members

As with regular business meetings, an AGM agenda (DOC 19KB)  should be circulated to board members at least two weeks prior to the meeting along with the minutes from the previous AGM. Other documents that may be provided include:
      • listing of proposed motions or special resolutions
      • executive and committee reports
      • audited financial statements
      • positions up for elections
      • nomination and proxy forms
      • other documents as required by bylaw

LeadershipTalk Webinar - Annual General Meetings - Be Prepared

                                               - Annual General Meetings - Your Role

                                               - Virtual Annual General Meettings



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